Pee Dee Art Competition opens, winners announced
The formal opening of the 2020 Pee Dee Regional Art Competition was held Thursday, Jan. 30 at the Florence County Museum’s Waters Gallery in downtown Florence.
This year’s competition juror was South Carolina artist and paintings conservator Jeff Donovan of Columbia. The Pee Dee Regional has been presented annually since 1954 and is one of the longest-running competitive art exhibitions in the state.
Attendees at the reception were welcomed by Stephen W. Motte, curator of the Florence County Museum, followed by remarks from Blake Pate, representing corporate sponsor Chick-fil-A of Florence. Motte announced the winning selections, congratulating the artists with a presentation of the cash awards.
The $1,000 first place prize was awarded to Ashley Arakas, for her watercolor, Bore. The painting is both an evocative portrait and a careful study in the interplay of negative and positive space, which the artist has used for dramatic emphasis of the painting’s subject.
Arakas’ paintings in oil and watercolor have entered the competition several times in past years. In 2017, she took third place in the Pee Dee Regional with her painting, Apprehensive Love, one in a series of works exploring the psychological effects of divorce on children. Arakas was also recently awarded Best in Show at the 42nd annual National Exhibition of the South Carolina Watermedia Society. She is a graduate of Coastal Carolina University.
A second place award of $600 went to Kevin Spaulding for his large oil on canvas, Requiem. Although a relative newcomer to South Carolina, Spaulding’s paintings have quickly gained recognition on the competition stage. He has won awards at three of the past four regional competitions, as well as at Artfields 2018 where his painting The Sacrifice, won the people’s choice cash award in the paintings category.
“Spaulding’s paintings are deep and rich, visually and conceptually,” said Motte. “All of his works invite the viewer to approach slowly, to come closer, but within that closeness, each leaves you with a cold, distant impression. It’s a challenging thing to accomplish as a painter, I believe.”
Third place went to Charles Clary for his hand-cut paper relief assemblage Memento Morrididdle Movement No. 502. In 2016, Clary took top prize at ArtFields for his installation piece, Be Kind, Rewind. He received his MFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2009, and has been represented in galleries throughout the eastern United States. He has been featured in the popular contemporary art magazine Hi-Fructose, and on the Discovery Channel program, Daily Planet. In addition to being a full-time artist, Clary is a lecturer and teacher, and currently works at Coastal Carolina University.
Honorable mention was given to Alexandra Knox of Loris, for her sculpture Stockpile. Knox is a veteran of the Pee Dee Regional. In 2019 she was awarded second place, and in 2018 also won recognition for her three-dimensional mixed media work, Five to Nine. Her art frequently utilizes raw materials like plaster, wax and construction waste lumber.
“Knox’s works are very visceral and direct,” said Motte. “She has a unique ability to transform simple, familiar media into forms which communicate complex ideas.”
Knox has been a faculty member of the art department of Coastal Carolina University since 2014.
“This year’s award winners were selected not only for their formal merits, but for their respective uniqueness of concept,” said competition juror Jeff Donovan. “The juror’s role is to recognize the inherent subjectivity of an artwork while measuring its success by objective criteria.”
Donovan is an artist and professional paintings conservator in Columbia. He studied art at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Fla, and at the Penland School of Craft inN.C.
As in previous years, the 2020 Pee Dee Regional was opened to submissions of contemporary art created within the last two years by all artists within the state’s northeastern Pee Dee region.
The exhibit is now open to the public and will remain on display through Friday, April 3 in the FCM Waters Gallery, 135 South Dargan St. Visitors are invited to join the awards selection by casting their ballots for the Jo Ann Fender Scarborough People’s Choice Award. Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open through Friday, March 27. The winner will be announced Monday, March 30.
For more information about the Pee Dee Regional Art Competition and other upcoming exhibits and events, please contact the Florence County Museum at (843) 676-1200 or visit the website atflocomuseum.org.